It was just 29 degrees out on a January morning, but Abby Buffington of Portland got her usual order from Dunkin’: an iced coffee. “I just shoveled snow so I’m a little bit hot,” she said, adding, “I get iced coffee all year round.” Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Back in the day, and not so very far back either, hot coffee was a warming cozy drink for chilly winter days, iced coffee a way to temper the sweltering summer ones. Come Labor Day, you put away your white clothes and bathing suit, and you switched your coffee habits, too.

Today? Even in Maine, where winter temperatures regularly dip into the 30s, the 20s, the teens and — this very weekend — well below zero, habits have decidedly changed. The sight of a coffee-drinker – often a young coffee drinker – clutching a 32-ounce clear plastic cup of coffee packed with ice cubes while navigating slippery sidewalks or waiting, breath visible, behind a giant snowbank for a bus, is practically a matter of course. Scratch the “practically.”

In summer and in winter, more than half the coffee sales at Dunkin’ are for iced coffee drinks, reported Michelle McDonough, the international coffee shop chain’s senior manager for field marketing. “We were the OGs of bringing iced coffee to the world,” she said. “It’s definitely a big piece of our business … It’s our bread and butter.”

Iced coffee sales in winter have “definitely” gone up at Aroma Joe’s, the South Portland-based coffee chain said in an email. The company says the trend has been driven by millennial and Gen Z customers, who form the bulk of their base. Year-round, 70 percent of Aroma Joe’s sales come from iced and frozen drinks.

Zack Handlen of Portland sips iced coffee from Dunkin’ on a cold morning in January. Iced coffee is simpler to drink when he’s commuting, and it’s easier to find than it used to be in the wintertime. “You can get it anywhere, ” he said, “where it used to be more of a novelty thing.” Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Local independent coffee shops also report a large uptick in winter sales for cold coffee drinks of various sorts. Ten years ago, a Coffee By Design shop would go through one or two pitchers of iced coffee on a winter’s day – and that was on a good day. “Today, we are not talking about pitchers in the fridge,” said the Portland company’s owner and co-founder Mary Allen Lindemann. “I’d say kegs, and it’s, ‘Do we have enough to last us the weekend?’ ”

Garrett Nisbet, an eight-year veteran at The Crooked Mile Cafe in Portland, has seen the same. “We are running through our iced coffee,” he said. “A large portion of our younger customers are the ones who are getting iced coffees, iced lattes, iced chais, all year round. It’s like water to them.”


According to the 2022 National Coffee Data Trends report from the New York-based National Coffee Association, in January 2022, 85% of past-day coffee drinkers – meaning survey respondents who’d had coffee the day before – chose hot coffee, while 25% chose cold. (The percentages do not add up to 100 because many people have more than one cup of coffee a day, the report said.)

“While our data has shown increased popularity of cold coffee beverages over the last 10 years, hot beverages remain the most popular, especially as age increases,” the report said.

Meanwhile, Project Iced, the inaugural 2020 report from Allegra World Coffee Portal, a website for coffee executives, found that 36% of Americans are willing to buy iced coffee beverages in the winter. It also reported that sales for iced coffee drinks throughout the year had outpaced the growth in hot coffee sales, a surge widely attributed to the growing popularity of cold brew coffee.

Danielle Kroot of Portland sips an iced maple latte at The Proper Cup in Portland on a snowy January day. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer


Winter iced coffee drinkers, the weather be damned, say iced coffee is more convenient, more of a treat, longer-lasting, better-tasting and more refreshing than hot coffee. A hot coffee quickly cools down anyway, a few said, and what do you have then? Iced coffee.

“That’s all I drink. I like iced coffee better. I always have,” said Danielle Kroot, a physical therapist and Portland resident who late last month was sitting at the window counter enjoying an iced latte with a ham and cheese croissant at The Proper Cup on Forest Avenue in Portland. “My mom always drank hot black coffee. It disgusted me.” She laughed.


Kroot, 33, does make a seasonal switch in her coffee routine, but it’s got nothing to do with temperature. As winter arrives, she shifts from her standard summer order, a honey-lavender iced latte, to a maple iced latte.

For Zack Handlen, who lives in Portland and works as a library assistant at McArthur Public Library in Biddeford, it’s all about the commute. On a 29-degree day in late January the morning after a snowstorm, he emerged from Dunkin’ on Forest Avenue in Portland with an iced coffee in hand.

“I like drinking iced coffee because I don’t have to wait for it to cool down,” Handlen, 43, said. “If I drink hot coffee, I have to wait the entire commute, and then I take sips from it and I burn my tongue. With iced coffee, I can just drink it in the car.”

“This is my treat,” said Portland resident Giana Battista, 25, as she held up a butter toffee latte on her day off from her job at a market research firm. “I’ve been doing it since I was in high school with my friends. We would always go to Dunkin’ Donuts and get iced coffee – the same thing as wearing shorts and stuff in the winter. Honestly, I’ve gone out in blizzards and still stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts” for iced coffee.

She and several others said that they if they ever have a hot coffee, it’s at home – it’s cozy, or maybe they just need a hit of caffeine when they roll out of bed. A few said they’d just been digging out their cars from the previous night’s snowstorm; they were overheated and craving a refreshing cold drink.

Several of these “winter warriors,” as Dunkin’ dubs them, were wholly unable to come up with a theoretical outside temperature so chilly that they’d opt for hot coffee. “A winter warrior is just someone who drinks iced coffee year-round and is proud of it,” McDonough of Dunkin’ said, “and it doesn’t matter how many inches of snow are on the ground.”


Beatrice Buckley, a barista at The Proper Cup in Portland, pours an espresso shot into a cup to make an iced Americano. It was late January, and the morning after Portland got some 9 inches of snow, but hey, why let the calendar/weather control your coffee drink? Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer


Local coffee shop owners and employees have been watching this trend play out for some time now. McDonough, who is based in Maine, said Dunkin’ noticed over the past 10-15 years that its customers increasingly craved cold coffee drinks, even in winter. In response, it expanded its menu of them. Flexibility is the watchword.

“For both New England and especially Mainers, people want to drink what they want to drink,” she said.

This Wednesday, the chain is holding an invitation-only cocktail event in South Portland – guest mixologists will be making drinks with Dunkin’ cold brew – to celebrate Dunkin’ winter warriors, “our die-hards, our Iced Coffee loyalists no matter the season!” the invitation reads.

Sara Wolff of Yarmouth holds a cup of hot coffee and a cup of iced tea on a cold day in January as she heads to the University of Maine School of Law, where she works. Wolff said she likes hot coffee to start the day, but switches to iced tea in the afternoon. “First thing in the morning, I want a hot drink. I’ve got to get myself started and kind of warm-up for the day. But after that, I’m comfortable, my body temperature is comfortable, and I just want something cold and refreshing.” Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

That event is scheduled to take place at North 43 Bistro, where, as it happens, co-owner Stephanie Brown said her (mostly young) staff drinks iced coffee all day, year-round. She switches from hot coffee to cold as the day goes on, regardless of the season. Not her partner, Laura Argitis, though, an afternoon hot coffee drinker. Any tension there? Brown laughed. “None. None. You be you, girl.”

Cold brew has unquestionably fueled the hot market in cold coffee at Coffee by Design. It’s less acidic, Lindemann said, comparing it to a good, frothy Guinness, and it suits millennials looking for a tasty alternative to soda or beer. Those are cold drinks people enjoy in winter, she added, so “why not coffee?” Still, even Lindemann, herself a year-round hot coffee drinker, was astounded when she looked up sales of cold brew at the Diamond Street store for a recent January day.


“I knew that it was a significant amount, but to see that it was 17 percent?!” she said. “That does surprise me!”

Less than a quarter mile away from Coffee by Design’s Congress Street shop, Tandem is bucking the trend. “We offer it,” co-owner Will Pratt said about cold coffee over the winter months. “Do we sell it? Not that much.”

But is there really a story here anyway? he wondered politely.

“There has never been an article about people who drink hot coffee in the summer,” he said. “If you’re an iced coffee person, that’s not a hot or cold thing. It’s just your drink.”

Rachel Pelletier of Buxton holds a cup of iced coffee (with her own reuseable straw) from The Proper Cup on Forest Avenue in Portland on a sunny January morning. “Here’s the thing: When I’m cold, I love having a hot cup of coffee at my house. When I go out to a coffee shop, I don’t know what it is, I like having a cold iced coffee.” Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: